Just like my good friend Barack Obama, I like to release the books I enjoyed throughout the year. Unfortunately, I was unable to read as many books as Obama, but I did the best I could. This year, I set my usual goal to read 20 books in one year and somehow managed to read even less than I did in 2017. I’m going to continue to set my goal of 20 books in one year and some year, I will accomplish that feat (2020, I’m looking at you).
Below is the list of books that I read this year. I highly recommend most of them!
- We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Nehisi Coates
A collection of Coates’s essays published in The Atlantic from each year of Barack Obama’s presidencies, this book is a must-read. I credit this book for shaking me awake from my cocoon of white privilege. While I previously considered myself to be somewhat woke, this book opened my eyes to so many issues about race that I ignored in plain sight without realizing. Reading this book made me see the immediacy of the need for confronting America’s racist, slave-owning past and how so many of our current issues stem from the fact that we’ve never come to terms with our racist past.
2. The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson
If you read only one book next year, let it be this one. To truly understand American history, one has to know about the Great Migration–the conditions in the south that forced people to leave their homes and go north, and the challenges those people faced in the north. While reading We Were Eight Years In Power, I kept a record of many of the titles that Coates referenced throughout his essays. I decided to start by reading more about the Great Migration. This beautifully written historical narrative of the great migration was eye-opening, heartbreaking, inspiring, and informative to say the least. I also recommend listening to Wilkerson’s discussion of the book and her experience writing it with Krista Tippett on the podcast On Being.
3. Last Night at the Lobster by Stewart O’Nan
I recommend this novel to anyone who has ever worked in a restaurant. It’s a quick-read and could easily be finished in an afternoon. The novel takes place in a snowy, New England town at a Red Lobster at a mall just a few days before Christmas. The Lobster is set to close after that evening and follows the experience of the manager having to work one last shift while short-staffed. Having worked in a restaurant, I could sympathize with many of the characters and the author manages to make the reader emotionally invested in them.
4. Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
Always fun to revisit a classic novel. I’ve always been intrigued by a story that takes place throughout the course of one day, and I aspire to write such a story while keeping the reader completely engrossed in the story. I read this book to examine Woolf’s stream of consciousness style of writing and I was wowed by how she turns the convention of the novel on its head.
5. I Hear She’s a Real Bitch by Jen Arg
I really enjoy reading food memoirs, and this one was written by the successful Toronto restauranteur, Jen Agg. In an industry saturated with male voices, it was very refreshing to read about a woman’s experience opening multiple successful restaurants. [Spoiler alert: it takes hard work and is not for the faint of heart.] This was a great read filled with humor and unapologetic frankness about the industry and the world in general.
6. Difficult Women by Roxane Gay
This book of short stories was beautifully written and crafted. The stories centered around women dealing with trauma. I especially liked the stories that were speculative fiction. More speculative fiction, please!
7. Becoming by Michelle Obama
After reading this memoir, I feel like I know the Obamas personally. Michelle tells her story in a way that is accessible and you feel as though you are sitting with her as she tells you about her life. I’m not going to tell you anything else about it other than you should read it. Read it right now.
Thank you, 2018! Sorry I didn’t read more. Here’s to more reading in 2019!